Hamilton man sentenced in 2013 vehicular homicide case

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By Philip Sean Curran, Staff Writer
In a Trenton courtroom Tuesday morning, Nelly Rodriguez stood only a few feet away from the driver who killed her 20-year-old daughter, Nicole, and two others in a car crash in December 2013., Rodriguez remained composed as she spoke of losing one of her four children, a “selfless” and “kind” young woman whose life was snatched away in seconds, left to die on a highway., “This pain is unbearable,” she said in telling Luis Delcid-Cardona, who was at the wheel that night, that she had forgiven him., Delcid-Cardona, 22, of Hamilton, sat next to his defense lawyer for his sentencing on three counts of vehicular homicide. He received five years for each life lost, with the prison terms to run concurrently, all according to the terms of the plea bargain that he had accepted in March to avoid going on trial. It was his first criminal offense., Having been locked up since his arrest Dec. 12, 2013, he received jail credit for the 1,251 days he has been incarcerated, thus shortening the time until he will become parole eligible. The native of Guatemala will be deported once he finishes his prison sentence, having had his student visa revoked., The sentencing was the denouement of a case that started with four young people out together in a car., Delcid-Cardona was driving a Volkswagen GTA in the early morning hours of Dec.12, on I-95 south in Lawerence, when he lost control and hit the back of a tractor trailer that had been parked on the shoulder. Jonathan Rivas,19, of Princeton and Delcid-Cardona’s cousin, and Samantha Belliveau, 18, who were passengers, died as a result of their injuries along with Nelly Rodridguez’s daughter, a fellow passenger., “It will always live with me,” said Delcid-Cardona, when given his chance to speak in court., The subsequent law enforcement investigation revealed that Delcid-Cardona had fled the scene, to run to a cousin’s house, in Lawerence, with the cousin calling 911. Authorities did a blood test of Delcid-Cardona, though only 19 at the time and not old enough to legally drink, and found his blood alcohol level was somewhere between .05 and .10., Defense lawyer Robin Lord explained that Delcid-Cardona’s decision to run was out of “panic” of not knowing what to do. She noted that he had maintained that his car had slipped on black ice on the roadway., It was, at times, an emotional courtroom, with some people crying. But the lightness of Delcid-Cardona’s punishment angered Nelly Rodridguez, who expressed disappointment in the outcome of the case, as well as Sabrina Belliveau, the sister of Samantha, who spoke in court., “You deserve to rot behind bars for the rest of your life,” Sabrina said to Delcid-Cardona., For his part, assistant Mercer County Prosecutor Tim Ward said the case reflected that what happens in a courtroom “can’t make things right.”, “But it’s the best we can do,” he said., Superior Court Judge Peter Warshaw, speaking from the bench, explained that he had been invited to participate in plea negotiations between Lord and the Prosecutor’s Office. He said authorities had expressed concerns about how a jury might decide the case, in adding there was a frank discussion on the strengths and weaknesses of the Prosecutor’s Office case., In addressing the families, the judge said he could understand they were not satisfied., “There is no closure,” he said. “These cases are horrible, horrible tragedies.”